TOKYO—Japan has detected what it believes to be a Chinese submarine off a southern Japanese island, the defense ministry said Sunday, heightening Japan’s alert levels in the East China Sea as the Chinese communist regime increases its military activities.
The submarine remained submerged, but the ministry said in a statement that it believes the submarine is Chinese because a Chinese Luyang III-class guided missile destroyer is near the submarine.
The submarine moved northwest off the eastern coast of Amami Ōshima Island, about 420 miles northeast of the disputed East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but also claimed by Beijing, the ministry said.
The submarine on Sunday morning was heading west in the East China Sea.
Neither the submarine, nor the ship entered Japanese territorial waters. Under international law, submarines passing off the coast of another country are required to surface and show a national flag inside territorial waters.
Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force sent three reconnaissance aircraft and two destroyers to the area for early warning and information gathering to analyze China’s intentions.
A submarine believed to be Chinese also was spotted in the area in June 2020.
The Chinese regime has defended its maritime activities and says it has the right to defend its sovereignty, security, and development interests.
Japan, alarmed by China’s growing naval activities in the East and South China seas, has been stepping up defense in the country’s southwestern regions and islands north of the disputed islands.
Tokyo says it opposes Beijing’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the region, and regularly protests the Chinese coast guard’s growing presence near the disputed islands. Japanese officials say Chinese vessels routinely violate Japanese territorial waters around the islands, sometimes threatening fishing boats.